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Sound emission and annihilations in a programmable quantum vortex collider
Nature  (IF49.962),  Pub Date : 2021-12-01, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04047-4
W. J. Kwon, G. Del Pace, K. Xhani, L. Galantucci, A. Muzi Falconi, M. Inguscio, F. Scazza, G. Roati

In quantum fluids, the quantization of circulation forbids the diffusion of a vortex swirling flow seen in classical viscous fluids. Yet, accelerating quantum vortices may lose their energy into acoustic radiations1,2, similar to the way electric charges decelerate on emitting photons. The dissipation of vortex energy underlies central problems in quantum hydrodynamics3, such as the decay of quantum turbulence, highly relevant to systems as varied as neutron stars, superfluid helium and atomic condensates4,5. A deep understanding of the elementary mechanisms behind irreversible vortex dynamics has been a goal for decades3,6, but it is complicated by the shortage of conclusive experimental signatures7. Here we address this challenge by realizing a programmable vortex collider in a planar, homogeneous atomic Fermi superfluid with tunable inter-particle interactions. We create on-demand vortex configurations and monitor their evolution, taking advantage of the accessible time and length scales of ultracold Fermi gases8,9. Engineering collisions within and between vortex–antivortex pairs allows us to decouple relaxation of the vortex energy due to sound emission and that due to interactions with normal fluid (that is, mutual friction). We directly visualize how the annihilation of vortex dipoles radiates a sound pulse. Further, our few-vortex experiments extending across different superfluid regimes reveal non-universal dissipative dynamics, suggesting that fermionic quasiparticles localized inside the vortex core contribute significantly to dissipation, thereby opening the route to exploring new pathways for quantum turbulence decay, vortex by vortex.